Welcome to Anthropology, your second career

Img_2618 Ours is a participatory world. Lots of people create culture.  Artists, musicians, film makers, writers.  Many of us do it for free.  I do. This blog, I do it for nothing.  (I know. I know.)

This means, we need day jobs, something to pay the bills.  There are lots of possibilities: waiter, high school teacher, bookstore owner, night watchman. 

May I suggest anthropologist?  That’s what I do. 

Here’s why anthropology is perfect for you.  As an artist, musician, film maker or writer, you know a world that interests the rest of the world.  Let’s say that you write Romance Fiction.  This is a lively world, filled with its own heaving developments, so to say.  P&G needs to know about what is happening in Romance Fiction because Romance Fiction is a window on the world of a very large group of consumers they care about. 

Am I asking you to peach?  That’s the English term.  Am I asking you to tell?   To give P&G insider information, things they should not know?

In the old days, when marketers when playing a game of trickery, you would well to be concerned.  But these days, there is no trickery about it.  These days P&G is just trying to stay in the same "head space" of the consumer.  Telling P&G about Romance Fiction is merely a matter of keeping them in the loop, in the cultural know. 

You will need to know some anthropology, of course.  But I can teach you that.  Er. Or someone can.  If you are part of the Cambridge university community, here’s the course I am doing with Joshua Green. 

This course will provide students with an introduction to qualitative research. Working in small teams, students will design and conduct a qualitative project designed to propose strategy for media and cultural organizations – an indicative project would look at ways to revitalize PBS to keep pace with participatory culture. Students will receive an intensive introduction to planning and conducting qualitative research including ethnographic and participant observation methods based on real world case studies.

How do you find your market.  Start a website.  Write a blog.  Speak at conferences.  They will come to you. 

Now, I get that many artists don’t want to know what other artists are doing.  They want to commune with their Gods and the less they know about the competition the better.  This option is not for you.  But for the rest it’s a good deal, an excellent add on.  And if you are a natural schmoozer, someone who loves to reach out to others and listen to what is going on, this is perfect. 

It’s a two way deal, finally.  What you give to marketing, you also give to anthropology.  When you record the world of Romance Fiction, you serve the Caesar of P&G and the Christ of anthropology.  (If that’s the right way of putting it.  Probably not.)  Anthropologists in a hundred years will read your blog.

Image explanation

The image above was captured in Toronto.  It is a relief from the building that used to be a post office (perhaps the main post office) downtown.  It is now the Raptors arena.  There are several reliefs, each of them showing a different form of transportation.  This one shows a ship, obviously.  If you click on the image, and look carefully, you will see a small figure on the bridge, presumably the captain.  That’s you. 

5 thoughts on “Welcome to Anthropology, your second career”

  1. Yup, there is a large and growing demand for a qualitative-research skill set in the corporate world these days. It’s about using techniques adapted from anthro, but the right skill-set also, of necessity, needs to include the ability to creatively synthesize ideas and strategies out of the research — or at a minimum, know enough about that process to be able to hand off research that is useful for practical ideation, rather than purely academic interest.

    A lot (a lot) of schools are teaching this now, or something like it. Including mine (http://www.id.iit.edu).

    By the way, speaking of PBS and participatory culture, Chicago Public Radio has recently done an amazing thing and launched a whole new station called Vocalo (http://www.vocalo.org) dedicated 100% to audience-generated content.

  2. Anthropology is a good course. This course will provide students with an introduction to qualitative research. Working in small teams, students will design and conduct a qualitative project designed to propose strategy for media and cultural organizations – an indicative project would look at ways to revitalize PBS to keep pace with participatory culture.

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